Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Stratfordian Straws by Isabel Gortázar

During the past few years we have been observing some Stratfordians clutching at straws; the last case being Prof. Stanley Wells with his delighted discovery that the Janssen/Cobbe Portrait shows, at last, the face of their beloved Bard. In fact, it seems generally accepted that the man in the portrait is Sir Thomas Overbury, but Mr. Wells decided otherwise and announced it to the media. Not that this particular issue matters much in respect of the Authorship Question, because even if it were the case that the Janssen/Cobbe portrait is Shakespeare’s that would in no way prove that he wrote anything, only that he was wealthy enough to wear such an elaborate costume. Compared to the sober attire of the Chandos man and even the Monument man, this would indeed be revealing.

But what is remarkable is that despite all the research that Stratfordian academics continue to do, the information that has so far come to light is repeated evidence that William Shakespeare was an excellent businessman who combined his activities as a merchant in Stratford with his (necessarily light) theatrical activities in London. Such theatrical activities imply that he was either a principal actor (which we know he was not), or an important shareholder of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, later the King’s Men. Apart from that, and as an anecdote, we know that he composed an extraordinary will, in which both the second best bed, the one and only legacy he left to his wife, and the rings that he left to his ffellowes John Hemyngs, Richard Burbage & Henry Cundell were afterthoughts.1

In an illuminating work called The Progresses, Processions and Magnificient Festivities of King James the First [...] Comprising Forty Masques and Entertainments [...], in three volumes,2 edited by one John Nichols, we are made aware of a curious situation.

Starting with Sorrowes Joy, the Cambridge Poems on the death of Elizabeth and Accession of James, the volumes follow King James’ reign from the moment of the Queen’s death, along his progress south from Edinburgh to London, all the way to his coronation and on to the end of his reign, including the various events that took place in Madrid, during Prince Charles’ visit to that city in 1623, in a last attempt to bring about the marriage of the Prince to the Spanish Infanta and her considerable dowry.

Along the pages of these three volumes, we find practically every name related to poetry and literature that we have ever heard of within that period (and even several names that I, at least, had never heard before). Prominent among these is Ben Jonson, with no less than thirty entries between masques and poems, in a total of one hundred and four events recorded.3

In other words, virtually every important poet and dramatist living during the reign of King James (vg: Jonson, Marston, Daniel, Middleton, Dekker, Beaumont, Munday, Drayton, Chapman, etc.) is mentioned at least once in these volumes, as having written and/or taken part in the said festivities, masques and entertainments. That is to say, every important poet and dramatist save two: William Shakespeare and John Fletcher. Their names do not appear at all in the index of those one hundred and four events.

Shakespeare, however, appears once in the main text and twice in footnotes by Nichols, one of which footnotes is interesting enough to be reproduced, below. Fletcher is also mentioned in a footnote as “a celebrated dramatic poet." But here is the one and only piece of information on Shakespeare that appears in the main text. (Vol 1, 156) Dated 19th May 1603: “the Royal Licence was granted to Laurence Fletches, William Shakespeare, Richard Burbage, Augustine Phillipes, John Heminge, Henrie Condell, William Sly, Robert Armin, Richard Cowley, and the rest of their associates, freely to use and exercise the arte and faculty of playing comedies, tragedies, histories, interludes, morals, pastorals, stage plays and such like others as they have already studied or hereafter shall use or study, as well as for the recreation of our loving subjects, as well as for our solace and pleasure, when we shall think good to see them, during our pleasure; and the said comedies, tragedies histories [etc.] and such like to show and exercise publicly to their best commodity, when the infection of the plague shall decrease, as well within their now usual place The Globe, within our County of Surrey.” This is an obvious list of actors and/or shareholders, not authors.

Then in 1614 we find the following entry (Vol 3, pg 26): A letter from John Chamberlaine to his faithful correspondent Dudley Carlton: “They have plays at court every night, both holy-days and working days, wherein they show great patience, being for the most part such poor stuff that, instead of delight, they send the auditory away with discontent. Indeed our Poets’ brains and inventions are grown very dry, insomuch that of five new plays there is not one that pleases, and therefore they are driven to furbish over their old; which stand them in best stead and bring them most profit.”

To this, J. Nichols adds the following footnote: “Had one of the enthusiastic annotators of Shakespeare met with this sentence, he would not have failed to twist it to his own advantage, by remarking that the career of the Immortal Bard was now closed or nearly so; that other dramatists could not satisfy the public appetite, lately pampered by his unrivalled productions, and that therefore his old plays were obliged to be revived; yet the year 1614 is affixed by Johnson and Steevens4 to the Midsummer’s Night’s Dream, which play and The Tempest Warburton5 calls ‘the noblest efforts of that sublime and amazing imagination peculiar to Shakespeare!’ It is a truth which requires no demonstration, that Shakespeare in his own time was little more thought of by the public than his fellow playwrights were; and yet it is a remarkable proof that such was the case, that we never find him mentioned by the ever communicative Mr Chamberlaine.” (My italics.)

We have a further example of Mr. Chamberlaine’s “forgetfulness” of, or simply indifference to, the man Shakespeare. Immediately after the information given above, about the Royal Licence, in which we have seen William Shakespeare’s name listed with the other shareholders and/or players, Nichols inserts a footnote on the burning of The Globe on 29th June 1613. In the eighteen lines of this footnote he quotes two letters, one from John Chamberlain to Sir Ralph Winwood, and another from Sir Henry Wooton to “A Friend." The letters are highly informative and include the two current titles of the play that was being performed when the theatre went up in flames: Henry VIII or All Is True,6 but neither the correspondences nor Mr. Nichols mentions the name of the author struck by such calamity.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is all that we find about William Shakespeare in the 2,553 pages (indexes and footnotes included) that Mr. Nichols managed to put together in an extraordinary collection of literary activities, court gossip and general goings on among the royalty, the aristocracy and the intelligentsia during the twenty-three years of King James’ reign. His observation that Shakespeare is never mentioned in Chamberlaine’s innumerable letters I find equally significant.

So, looking at Mr. Nichols' extraordinary collection of private performances and social activities, we see no Shakespeare at all between 1603 and 1616, except as an actor/manager. No Shakespeare! And yet we know that the author of the thirty-six plays in the FF was not above writing masques, such as appear, for example, in Love’s Labour’s Lost or The Tempest. Could the reason for this conspicuous absence be that all these masques, performed at court or in private circles by members of the nobility and even the royal family, required the physical presence of the authors in the proceedings? In Jonson’s Masque of Oberon, for example, performed at Whitehall on 1st January 1611, the part of Oberon was played by Prince Henry7; the Queen herself and Lucy, Countess of Bedford,8 performed in Jonson’s Masque of Blackness, Masque of Beauty and Masque of the Queens. Can we doubt that Jonson was present during rehearsals?

The Shakespere of the Coat of Arms was a man who liked his social climbing, and these masques and entertainments were all the rage, especially while Queen Anne was still alive (she died 1619); so can we believe that he would have missed the chance to hobnob with the royals and the nobility, while giving them stage directions? And the reason couldn’t be that he was too busy writing the, at least, ten plays that appear in the ten years between 1603 and the burning of the Globe in 1613; after all, the author of the FF should have been able to write a masque standing on his head.

So perhaps there was a different explanation for the absence of Mr. Shakespeare of Stratford, both in Nichols' masques and entertainments and in Mr. Chamberlaine’s letters.

Isabel Gortázar

© Isabel Gortázar, October 2009

Isabel Gortázar is an independent scholar, specializing in Shakespeare and Marlowe studies. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the Marlowe Society (UK) and a founding member of the International Marlowe Society. She divides her time between London and Bilbao, Spain.

1The words “Item; I give unto my wife my second best bed with the furniture” are written above the main text, as an amendment; there is no other bequest to Mrs. Shakespeare in the will. Also, the words specifying the money left to his three ffellowes, xxvjª viijª Apiece to buy them Ringes, are written above the main text.
2Collected and published by John Nichols, FSA. Lon. Edinb. & Perth. Printed 1828. The third volume is double.
3As a matter of interest here, Beaumont contributes with just one Masque of the Middle Temple and Gray’s Inn, 1612-13, (later inserted into The Two Noble Kinsmen); so at the end of his writing career.
4“Johnson and Steevens”: This would refer to the 10-volume work The Works of Shakespeare with the Corrections and Illustrations of Various Commentators (1773), prepared by George Steevens (1736-1800). Known as the “Johnson and Steevens Edition," Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) is supposed to have contributed very little to the work.
5William Warburton (1698-1779) published his own edition of Shakespeare’s works in 1747, after working on it for nine years. It seems Dr. Johnson was not impressed by Warburton’s comments and opinions.
6In the FF, the play appears as The Famous History of the Life of Henry the Eighth, but the original title, according to contemporary letters was All is True.
7For those who believe that the Earl of Oxford would write plays for the public theatres under the alias of “William Shakespeare," I hope they don't believe also that Prince Henry used to steal away in the evenings to play Hamlet at the Globe under an assumed name, just because he enjoyed performing masques at court.
8The Countess of Bedford, Sir John Harington’s daughter, appears in the Anthony Bacon papers (Lambeth Palace Library) at the time of Mr. Le Doux’s visit to Burley in 1595/6. Lucy Bedford and her mother, Lady Harington, became constant companions of Queen Anne, while John Harington Junior became the intimate friend of Prince Henry.

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26 comments:

AndrewUVA said...

Isn't it amazing how Shakespeare, the writer, appears in so few places during his lifetime?

This website does a great service. Carry on!

Mike M said...

The poster asks rhetorically:
"Can we doubt that Jonson was present during rehearsals?" To which I respond yes, we can (or even 'we may'). Now what?

Anthony Kellett said...

Mike M writes "Can we doubt that Jonson was present during rehearsals?" To which I respond yes, we can (or even 'we may'). Now what?

I think it is up to you, Mike, to propose the case for such doubt before you ask Isabel to consider the “now what?”; since the assumption, that Jonson was not present for at least some of these rehearsals (most notably ‘The Masque of Blackness’), is far more speculative than the position she takes. I am not going to write an entire explanation for this, since (in your forthcoming research) you will discover these facts for yourself.

It must also be said that, irrespective of Jonson’s actions, the assumption that Shakespeare of Stratford would have attended (given the opportunity) is reasonable; given his demonstrable craving for status and an apparent reluctance to antagonise his superiors. Therefore, the outcome of the debate about Jonson is irrelevant, in this respect.

May I ask, Mike, do you actually have anything to contribute, in terms of a positive proposal; or do you merely allow proper scholars to do all the actual work whilst you try (with a notable and consistent lack of success, I might add) to gain some semblance of credibility by picking at individual points in an entire essay filled with fascinating detail?

Marcovaldo said...

Mr. K,

I commend you for the response above. Too many comments sections of "reasonable doubt" websites are filled with these one-line "gotcha," cherry-pick comments that reveal smugness more than anything.

One can cherry pick an article filled with 100% fact, for heaven's sakes.

This is a fascinating article by Ms. G. So, do we just take one line, about Jonson, and discredit the whole thesis? Ridiculous.

TCCampania said...

eccellente!

Keyes said...

Will was in hiding, too busy writing Henry VI (the trilogy)!

(just kidding)

mariner said...

Anthony Kellet:
I think it is up to you, Mike, to propose the case for such doubt before you ask Isabel to consider the “now what?

I disagree.

It's up to the author to show us why we should believe that Jonson (or any other author) was necessarily present at rehearsals.

If you believe her position has merit why not persuade us, instead of complaining about the commenter?

We rightly object when Stratfordians demand we accept their assertions without evidence or even explanation; it's disappointing when Marlovians adopt this tactic.

Anthony Kellett said...

Ok Mariner. The reason I made that comment was because, when writing such a short article, I’m afraid it is impossible to explain every single piece of reasoning, as one might do in a book. One has to assume that readers come to the piece with some prior knowledge of the subject; and that in-depth explanations are only required for those elements (which may not be readily accepted) pertaining to the main thrust of the article. Unfortunately, this is the limitation of writing for a blog. Much of this entire subject is based on assumptions; and many of those are agreed upon (by most participants) as being sensible and relatively safe. It would be impossible for a writer to tackle each of these, in such an article, as if every one is to be contended.

In the case of Johnson and, for example, ‘The Masque of Blackness’; a production was performed in January 1605. Queen Anne herself had proposed the masque's central device: that she and eleven of her ladies should emerge from a scallop shell, ‘all paynted like Blackamores face and neck bare’, dazzlingly bejewelled and ‘strangely attired’, to dance with members of the court. The shell was borne in to the hall on a mobile wave, ‘stuck with a chev'ron of lights’, and escorted by six huge sea monsters (Ben Jonson, ed. Herford, Simpson, and Simpson, 10.449, 8.171). So we would seem justified in assuming the Queen would have attended rehearsals, performing scenes that Jonson had written and she suggested. This makes the assumption, that Jonson did not attend, somewhat unsafe.

Moreover, this masque was the first collaboration between Inigo Jones and Jonson. Jones subsequently designed sets, costumes and stage effects for Jonson in a collaboration that continued for around 26 years. The Queen’s attendance, combined with Jonson using a noted architect (albeit in his early career) as his new set designer (designing complex and ground-breaking sets), makes the assumption, that Jonson was not present during the preparations and rehearsals, not only unsafe, but downright dangerous.

Obviously, we may yet discover evidence to contradict this but, in the absence of such proof, it would be a strange assertion to claim the opposite as true; and that is why I said the onus should lie with the disputer to give some reason as to why he thinks Jonson would not have attended. Furthermore, it strikes me that anyone, disputing that Jonson attended, either a) has evidence to which I am not privy, in which case that should be shared or; b) has not looked into why most reasonable people would make this assumption. If the latter is the case, then the commenter is merely asking the writer to provide information he cannot be bothered to find elsewhere and has no reason whatsoever to doubt the assumption, other than to be bloody-minded.

If the commenter merely wanted an explanation for the assumption that Jonson attended these rehearsals (a perfectly reasonable request…we cannot all be assumed to know everything and I’m sure Isabel would have gladly done so) then one simply asks, “Why do we assume Jonson was there?” Mike M did not do this; he disputed the assumption; he did not ask for an explanation of it. There is a major difference between these two positions.

In conclusion, (other than perhaps requiring further explanation) readers should either accept these peripheral assumptions as reasonable (and, importantly, the writer should take this responsibility to make them “reasonable” very seriously) or, if they disagree, give some reason why they are not safe assumptions. “Put up or shut up”, I believe is the abbreviated form of this argument.

Paul Crowley said...

Carlo wrote:
" . . 6 For those who believe that the Earl of Oxford
would write plays for the public theatres under the
alias of “William Shakespeare," I hope they don't
believe also that Prince Henry used to steal away in
the evenings to play Hamlet at the Globe under an
assumed name, just because he enjoyed performing masques at court. . . "

If the poet had written simple entertainments
for the masses, there would have been little
need for his identity to be hidden, nor for
the mounting of a huge and expensive cover-up.
In fact, he wrote (mostly before 1585)
extraordinarily sophisticated works for the
royal court showing, for example, much of
his troubled soul in the person of Hamlet,
and portraying (to some extent) his royal
mistress as Hamlet's mother, Queen Gertrude.
Of course, there is a great deal else of this
nature in the works -- where he uses those around him after the manner all great artists use their material.

Had they been seen, by the Puritan middle-
class, as coming from the court, their
interpretations would have made the modern
(and sick) "Prince Tudor" theories appear
relatively benign.

That was why the cover-up had to be mounted,
and why it was maintained so effectively and
for so long. The myth of a country gentlemen
producing works for the common stage was
quite deliberately created -- from almost
nothing.

I have only seen the skimpiest of reasons
from the Marlowe camp as to why cover-up
was created -- and none as to how and why
it was maintained.

Paul.

Peter Farey said...

Paul Crowley said...
I have only seen the skimpiest of reasons from the Marlowe camp as to why cover-up was created -- and none as to how and why it was maintained.

Oh come on Paul, even you should be able to work that one out.

The Queen had put her signature to a document stating that Marlowe was dead, and if the Queen said you were dead it would be pretty stupid of you to carry on writing plays in your own name as if you weren't.

With the accession of James I, your hopes of a pardon might be raised, but soon dashed if the new monarch didn't fancy having an alleged atheist and sodomite as a national treasure, and whose closest adviser might in any case not want to be associated with having saved such a person's skin.

Peter Farey

Clare H said...

Paul Crowley said: "I have only seen the skimpiest of reasons from the Marlowe camp as to why cover-up was created -- and none as to how and why it was maintained."

If the near-certainty of being executed qualified as "the skimpiest of reasons" then of course I would have to agree with you. However in the circumstances I can only conclude you "have not seen" because you simply haven't bothered to look.

The Baines Notes contained more than sufficient accusations of atheism, heresy and blasphemy to lead to Marlowe's death in a year when the Government lawyer Richard Cosin published a tract where he states that those accused of atheism can justifiably by executed by the state even "without indica" (evidence) - the accusation alone being enough to warrant a death penalty in the case of so heinous a crime.

If it is difficult to grasp that the near-certainty of impending death would provide very strong motivation to go into hiding, especially if one had through one's contacts(as Marlowe did) the means and opportunity, there is little point addressing how and why the cover-up was maintained.

Paul Crowley said...

In reply to Peter and Clare H:

Thousands of people in England before Marlowe,
and many thousands after him, got into roughly
similar trouble. Many fled to the Continent,
or went into hiding. None are known (or even
thought) to have faked their own deaths.
Marlowe would have been much more familiar
than most with the means of escape and had
good contacts. People don't like to fake
their deaths because they have families and
friends, about whom they care, and who they
wish to see again.

But all that is minor, beside your need to
involve the authorities. Elizabeth and her
ministers were level-headed and would never
have backed so crazy a scheme. Marlowe
could have been located in his hidey-hole
on the Continent (by enemies of the English
state). He could have gone mad, or suffered
a religious oonversion, and reappeared one
day, walking down the aisle on (say) the
opening of Parliament. Ministers can foresee
such problems, and are paid to advise against
them. No government has ever mounted such
a plot.

That there was a plot surrounding 'Shake-
speare' I have no doubt. Those involved in
it must have often wondered how they got
into such a mess, and felt like tearing out
their hair. But the decisions that gradually
moved them deeper into it must, at each
stage, have seemed reasonable, or the least
worst of a set of bad alternatives.

Paul.

Isabel said...

Replying to Paul Crawley, belatedly, I'm afraid, because I have been away.

But that’s the whole point, Paul: that there was no need for the Earl's identity to be hidden because he did not write any of those plays.

You are trying to engage me in a circular argument: Oxford would have needed a a cover up had he written the plays. But as he did not write the plays, he did not need a cover up at all.

Elizabethan Earls did not write plays for the general public any more than they polished their own boots. Whatever sadness or frustration in his family life could have prompted him to write, he, like other noblemen around him, might have written poems, or essays, on the frailty of women, or the unreliability of princes, or whatever. To believe that he would have written a play for the masses to relieve his angst is like believing that he would have cried on his cook's shoulder.

You say also that Oxford was concerned about the Puritan middle classes; Elizabethan Earls were not “concerned” about the middle classes in any way at all. The Nobility “used” the middle and low classes for their convenience. Edward de Vere would have been offended to hear that anybody thought otherwise.

I’m afraid the Earl of Oxford’s followers appear to have no sense of the ruthless class-distinctions that dominated social life in Europe, in the Renaissance and up to the 19th Century. His Lordship must be turning in his grave.

And, by the way, whatever the Marlowe camp’s shortcomings may have been so far in tracking down an individual living somewhere in the Continent, under a false name, such shortcomings have no relevance whatever to this argument. Unlike Oxfordians, Baconians and Stratfordians, we are not asserting what we don’t know, we are spending a lot of time and effort in serious, historically plausible, research.

Because, above all, when looking for the author of thirty six extraordinary plays, we expect to find him among the professionals, not the amateurs. If we did not know who had painted the Mona Lisa, would we be looking for some Italian Duke who was known to have dabbled in watercolours?

Clare H said...

Paul Crowley said: "Thousands of people in England before Marlowe, and many thousands after him, got into roughly similar trouble. Many fled to the Continent, or went into hiding. None are known (or even thought) to have faked their own deaths."

Not so, dear Paul. Avail yourself of a copy of Roy Kendall's "Christopher Marlowe and Richard Baines" and his discussion of the arrest (with Marlowe + another intelligence agent) of one Gifford Gilbert, a few months after the apparent death of intelligencer Gilbert Gifford. As he rightly says, ‘deaths in the murky world of espionage can often be “blinds” for disappearances, and vice versa.’ (p.179)

You say:
"People don't like to fake their deaths because they have families and friends, about whom they care, and who they wish to see again."

Yet this doesn't stop dozens of people faking their deaths every year. Note recent examples of "Canoe Man" John Darwin http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article2994946.ece
and Philip Sessarago, who faked his own death and then wrote a bestseller under an assumed name: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1219325/My-dad-SAS-Walter-Mitty-How-Claire-mourned-fathers-death-seven-years-seeing-ALIVE-television.html

These faked deaths were discovered because the "dead" people allowed their photographs to be taken and posted on the internet (Darwin) or rather stupidly decided it was ok to appear on national television (Sasserego). Imagine how much easier it would be to disappear permanently before the age of photography, the internet, and mass media... and frankly had these people not been idiots they would not have been caught either. And all this in a time of modern passport control, and the need to produce ID at every turn. How much easier in Elizabethan England, especially with Governmental backing.

You assert "No government has ever mounted such a plot" but you simply cannot know. Governments have mounted more dangerous secretive plots than this (such as the various US plots to overturn Central American regimes) and regularly involve themselves in the modern equivalent, witness protection programmes. Consider 20th Century examples of wartime Government-backed secret plots (and bear in mind the Catholic/Protestant tensions in the 1590s were in themselves a quiet kind of war). If you don't think people can keep secrets, consider ENIGMA, which was kept a secret for decades by the hundreds of people involved, long after the end of the second world war. There was a danger any of them might have "gone mad" and told, or defected to the other side, yet they didn't. The story only came out when the Government gave permission.

Faked deaths do happen - even now. Governments do hatch secret plans and we only find out about the ones that fail. *Somebody* wrote those plays - and Marlowe is the only candidate who demonstrably has the right skill set to do so. The case for every other candidate (include Stratford Will, Bacon, and Oxford) contains stumbling blocks far more significant than the necessity for a faked death.

The majority of orthodox scholars believe the inquest document was a cover-up, and there is no reason why it should not be a cover-up for a faked death rather than a cover up a murder, especially since "death" would have appeared to be the only way out for a man whose name and reputation had been destroyed, and who had a murderous enemy (Baines)who was unlikely to stop there. His "Note" was the second attempt to have Marlowe prosecuted for a capital crime, and the documented moves against Marlowe at this time were legion. It was "die" or be killed. The Queen's involvement in the case is documented (an amended copy of the Baines Note being "sent to her H"). The time was rife with plots *against* the Queen and her Government - Babington, Main, Bye, Gunpowder, Stanley etc etc. Really, you think the Government might not have a few plots of their own?

Daryl Pinksen said...

I thoroughly enjoyed Clare H.'s latest response to Paul Crowley.

We cannot at the moment prove(and perhaps never will)that Marlowe escaped Deptford with the help of a faked death certificate and a new identity in exile. We must accept that criticism as valid.

However, I continue to be amazed that otherwise knowledgeable people would declare the scenario itself impossible.

The CIA and KGB routinely created false identities for their agents, along with complete histories of lives that never existed.

The Witness Protection Program, thrown together ad-hoc in the 1970s, has given 20 000 people (not all criminals) new lives with new identities. When they die, they are buried under their new identities; often their children and grandchildren are unaware of the identity switch.

All one has to do is place oneself in Marlowe's shoes in May 1593. There was an almost certain likelihood that he would be killed. Faced with this, most people would flee if they had the chance. But most people do not have the resources that were available to Marlowe -- his connections with the Elizabethan underworld, and his experience as an agent.

Running can provide a temporary reprieve when some organization is trying to kill you, but ideally, the only way to eliminate the threat permanently is for them to believe you are dead. This is not a modern revelation.

Whether this DID happen to Marlowe is a matter for debate, but whether this COULD have happened to him is not.

Paul Crowley said...

Clare H mentioned the case of "Canoe Man" John
Darwin, who I see is in the news today:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/tees/8354641.stm

" These faked deaths were discovered because
the "dead" people allowed their photographs to be
taken and posted on the internet (Darwin) or
rather stupidly decided it was ok to appear on
national television (Sasserego). "

In fact, these 'dead' people got tired of
being 'dead' and came back to life off
their own bat. Darwin claimed amnesia.

" Imagine how much easier it would be to
disappear permanently before the age of
photography, the internet, and mass media... "

Parallels between Elizabethan and modern
times are tricky. John Darwin could not have
fled to Panama in 1593, nor would he want to.
Further, he would have had no motive, since
there were no Life Assurance policies to pay
large sums to his 'widow'.

" and frankly had these people not been idiots
they would not have been caught either. "

The people who do this and are caught (or
who give up themselves) are invariably idiots
-- leading to the suspicion that only idiots
think of trying such a thing. "How to destroy
your life in one easy lesson."

". . . *Somebody* wrote those plays - and Marlowe
is the only candidate who demonstrably has the
right skill set to do so. "

There is not a single mention of "Marlowe" in
a literary context before June 1593. I believe
that his name was no more than a convenient one
for the real author to use (prior to his use of
'Shake-speare') for a couple of years after
Marlowe's death.

" . . especially since "death" would have appeared
to be the only way out for a man whose name and
reputation had been destroyed . ."

Marlowe did not have a name or reputation
to be destroyed. He seems to have spent most
of his short adult life as a spy. If he was
in trouble, I can see no reason why he should
not have done what thousands did before and
after him -- go to the Continent for a while,
or to some remote place in England.

" . . and who had a murderous enemy (Baines)who
was unlikely to stop there. . ."

All this sounds improbable to me. It is more
that a dead man can safely be libelled.

" . . . It was "die" or be killed. "

Thousands of others (with much less skill
and experience than Marlowe, and with fewer
powerful friends) faced similar threats
before him, and after him.

" . . The Queen's involvement in the case is
documented (an amended copy of the Baines Note
being "sent to her H"). The time was rife with
plots *against* the Queen and her Government -
Babington, Main, Bye, Gunpowder, Stanley etc etc.
Really, you think the Government might not have
a few plots of their own? "

It was not a happy time (endless war and
taxes) but there was no serious political
challenge to the Queen or to the Privy
Council. King James of Scotland was the
obvious heir, but he had no need to plot.
He was not yet thirty, nor had he an heir
of his own.

The lack of any real threat to the regime
is apparent in many ways, but one minor one
is the publication in and around 1594 of
several 'dangerous' plays (Jew of Malta,
Dido, Queen of Carthage, Spanish Tragedy,
Edward II, Massacre at Paris, Faustus).

Paul.

Paul Crowley said...

Daryl Pinksen said...
" . . However, I continue to be amazed that
otherwise knowledgeable people would declare the
scenario itself impossible."

No one says that it is 'impossible'. The
word is 'unlikely'. Given that Marlowe
was one of many thousands who experienced
such troubles, what proportion faked their
deaths, as against fleeing or hiding? How
about "one in a ten thousand?"

How many such 'faked deaths' were backed by
a government? Let's say "one in a thousand".
So what odds do we have now?

10,000 x 1,000 = 10 million to one.

" The CIA and KGB routinely created false
identities for their agents, along with
complete histories of lives that never existed.

" The Witness Protection Program, thrown
together ad-hoc in the 1970s, has given 20 000
people (not all criminals) new lives with new
identities. When they die, they are buried
under their new identities; often their
children and grandchildren are unaware of the
identity switch."

The Elizabethan world was very different from
the modern -- in this respect. The annual
output of the universities was tiny, and
every educated Elizabethan Englishman would
have shared numerous acquaintances with
every other educated Elizabethan Englishman.
Almost the first words in a conversation
between two such who had not met before
would be: "Do you know X or Y?". A failure to
establish mutual acquaintances -- or to
engage in the conversation would lead to
suspicion.

" All one has to do is place oneself in
Marlowe's shoes in May 1593. There was an almost
certain likelihood that he would be killed.
Faced with this, most people would flee if they
had the chance. But most people do not have the
resources that were available to Marlowe -- his
connections with the Elizabethan underworld,
and his experience as an agent."

" Running can provide a temporary reprieve
when some organization is trying to kill you,
but ideally, the only way to eliminate the threat
permanently is for them to believe you are dead."

Firstly, no organisation was trying to kill
Marlowe. He was less threatened than many
others of his time. No government or Church
or secret society was after his blood. He
may have been disliked, but no one would
benefit from his death. He had no money,
no position, and no power.

Secondly, he had no reason to believe that
his current unpopularity (insofar as it
existed) would not pass with time. That
is the usual pattern. For example, where
is Kenneth Starr now? Who cares? Would
he not be welcome on any TV chat show?
The crime has to be both specific and
monstrous for the villainy of villains not
to soon become irrelevant and largely
forgotten.

"This is not a modern revelation."

I suggest that -- in effect -- it is.
Around 1600, there was no place in Europe
where an educated Englisman could hide --
for more than year or so. His presence
would become known.

" Whether this DID happen to Marlowe is a
matter for debate, but whether this COULD have
happened to him is not."

Agreed. But the likelihood is vanishingly
small.

Not that an acknowledgement of such a fact
would ever affect your faith. Religious
beliefs are impervious to objections about
the probability of their truth.

Paul.

Clare H said...

Really Paul, do you have nothing better to do with your time than to display your ignorance of Early Modern political and literary history and make up (and multiply) meaningless probabilities based on nothing other than your own guesses?

Peter Farey said...

Clare H said...
Really Paul, do you have nothing better to do with your time than to display your ignorance of Early Modern political and literary history and make up (and multiply) meaningless probabilities based on nothing other than your own guesses?

No Clare, I'm sorry to say that he doesn't, as his several thousand posts to the humanities.lit.authors.shakespeare newsgroup over the past few years amply demonstrate.

Peter Farey

Daryl Pinksen said...

Paul, could you clarify something for those among us who aren't familiar with your interpretation of Oxfordianism?

I am intrigued by your statement,"There is not a single mention of "Marlowe" in a literary context before June 1593. I believe that his name was no more than a convenient one for the real author to use (prior to his use of 'Shake-speare') for a couple of years after Marlowe's death."

Fascinating. So, Christopher Marlowe lent his name to Oxford's plays, and then after Marlowe was killed in 1593, Shakespeare took over as Oxford's cover? Are there any other writers whose names are also a cover for Oxford? (I can see a glimmer of logical thinking behind this -- it is clear, even to you, that the works of Marlowe and Shakespeare were written by a single writer.)

I am also at a loss to understand this statement: "No government or Church or secret society was after [Marlowe's] blood." Have you read "The Reckoning?" or any of the other reputable Marlowe biographies? Are you familiar with the 'Baines note'?

A close familiarity with these scholarly books is assumed by us to be a pre-requisite before commenting on Marlowe's life.

Isabel Gortazar said...

I think we are doing great, guys.
First the Baconians and now the Oxfordians are convinced that Marlowe and Shakespeare were just two aliases for the same author.

They are doing our job for us!

Anthony Kellett said...

No Daryl, you must be wrong there.

Mr Crowley said, "There is not a single mention of "Marlowe" in a literary context before June 1593. I believe that his name was no more than a convenient one for the real author to use (prior to his use of 'Shake-speare') for a couple of years after Marlowe's death."

Therefore, the author of Marlowe’s plays used the name Marlowe for a couple of years AFTER Marlowe’s death. He could not have used it before Marlowe’s death because no one had ever heard of Marlowe writing before 1593. Then he changed to Shakespeare after that. I presume because the fact that a dead man was writing plays was prompting a few questions.

However, this does raise the question, “Who was using Shakespeare’s name 12 days after Marlowe died?”

Isabel said...

"There is not a single mention of "Marlowe" in a literary context before June 1593. I believe
that his name was no more than a convenient one for the real author to use (prior to his use of
'Shake-speare') for a couple of years after Marlowe's death."

I don't understand:

If there was no mention of Marlowe "prior to his death", Oxford would not have been using that name, because if he had, there would have been mentions of Marlowe.
There is no point in chosing an alias if you are going to keep that alias anonymous as well.

If what Crawley means is that Oxford started using the name of Marlowe for a couple of years "after Marlowe's death"(so until May 1595), before he took on the name of Shakes, how come that Venus and Adonis and Titus Andronicus were published with Shakes' name , in 1593 and 1594 respectively?

And if he had been using Marlowe's name before, why did he wait until Marlowe was declared a reprobate and dead, to start publishing the dangerous Marlowe stuff. Would it not have been wiser to keep mum?

And if he was the author of Tambourlaine,Massacre, Dido, Faust and Edward 2,how come Mr Meres only knew him as the best for "comedy"?

Paul Crowley said...

Daryl Pinksen said...

" I am also at a loss to understand this
statement: "No government or Church or
secret society was after [Marlowe's]
blood." Have you read "The Reckoning?" or
any of the other reputable Marlowe
biographies? Are you familiar with the
'Baines note'?"

I have "The Reckoning", and have perused
it often enough. I don't find it at all
'scholarly'. The "Baines note" has about
as much reliability as any modern rant on
the internet.

" A close familiarity with these
scholarly books is assumed by us to be a
pre-requisite before commenting on
Marlowe's life."

Surely you meant to say "An unquestioning
acceptance . . ." ?

Paul.



Anthony Kellett said...

" . . I presume because the fact that a
dead man was writing plays was prompting a
few questions."

There may have been questions or, more
likely IMHO, there was worry about their
possibility.

" However, this does raise the question,
“Who was using Shakespeare’s name 12 days
after Marlowe died?”

I see -- in roughly chronological order:
(a) a strong desire to preserve these great
works, which (around 1590) had mostly been
unread and unperformed for many years;
(b) the publication of several anonymously
from the late 1580s up to 1598;
(c) the largely haphazard use of one of the
poet's old pseudonyms ('Will Shakespeare')
for the publication of the long poems in
1593/4 (they were his ancient juvenile
works, and had few courtly allusions);
(d) the use of Marlowe's name (after his
death) for a few of the more dangerous
works; (why Marlowe? . . perhaps the man had
some kind of reputation as a poet; certainly
very few would have much idea what what
he had been doing in recent years -- and
those few would need little telling about
the need for discretion;)
(e) a noting (in 1593/4/5) of the surprising
fact that the populace were taking the name
of "William Shakespeare" (on the long poems)
as that of a real person;
(f) the identification of a yeoman with a
roughly similar name, willing to act as a
kind of nominal front;
(g) his payment, his elevation to 'gentleman',
and the building of a myth of 'rural-gentleman-
author' in London.

That myth might later require indications
of 'his' commercial success in London.
The purpose -- at all times -- was to
dissociate the works from their true origin
in the great years of Elizabeth's court.

Paul.

Anthony Kellett said...

Mr Crowley,

I started to answer this in a proper point-by-point rebuttal. However, it soon became clear, as each point was examined, that you are simply wasting the time of a group of people of the highest integrity. I may be proven wrong, but I suspect that these individuals are too polite (and possibly a little embarrassed on your behalf) to take this discussion any further.

You have entered an arena comprised of knowledgeable individuals of high academic standards. It is true that much of what is proposed by scholars, on all sides of this argument, often requires a large element of conjecture and logical reasoning. I cannot speak for any other group, but I am aware of the rigorous peer review that many Marlovian articles are subjected to, in order to ensure that, as far as possible, the claims being made are based on sound reasoning. That is not to say that all conclusions are universally accepted; merely that they are not unfounded or plain wrong. From the disjointed, non-specific and unsubstantiated claims you make for Oxford, I can immediately see that you (or the person from whom you have derived your views) are not subjected to similar levels of censure; assuming you are reproducing those views faithfully.

Unfortunately, I have read Oxford’s extant work. As a result, I’m afraid that, whatever motive or scenario you may dream up for his authorship claim, he did not have the talent. Without that vital ingredient, everything else is irrelevant. I fully understand, since you too must have come to this same conclusion, that you try to claim the work of talented authors in the hope that some may be believed to be by Oxford. You obviously have a strong attachment to this man and the realisation that he was, in reality, a non-entity, must be difficult to countenance.

I sincerely hope you find that group of sycophants for your nonsensical ramblings, sating your need for attention, but I’m afraid this is not the place.

LG said...

http://www.sirbacon.org/theobaldlove.htm

Bacon and Shakespeare have the same sentiments on love, parallel minds